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Buying a property at Auction in France – Candle Auctions (à la bougie)


There are different types of auction in France and one of the lesser known variations is the candle auction – in French “vente à la bougie” or “vente à la chandelle”.

This form of auction is unique to France and has been in use since the 15th Century. The purpose of this form of auction is to ensure that the process should be rigorously fair and open to everyone. Usually held in the office of the Notaire or at a property being auctioned there are very specific rules for participating – including the requirement to deposit a cheque for 20% of the starting bid with the auctioneer. Those who don’t win the bid will get their cheques returned at the end of the process.

A small candle is lit in front of the auctioneer – this is the signal for bidding to commence. Bidding must cease when the candle goes out indicated by a plume of smoke. A new candle is lit as successive bids are made. After the extinction of two successive flames without new bids coming forward the last, and winning bid, is confirmed. Each candle last around 30 seconds. It all seems rather archaic and some Notaires switch on a light instead of lighting a candle – but the procedure is the same. The light will go on an off until bidding is completed.

Auctions are favoured for quick sales in France and candle auctions are not uncommon in Paris to shift public and private property.

More on Property auction in France here.

See the Immobillieres.notaires.fr website for more details about auctions and properties for sale.

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